Looking back on this year, it is clear that our campus, community and country are facing unprecedented challenges. Yet here at the Y, we are fortunate to witness the optimism and energy of outstanding student leaders. In fact, some of our most significant initiatives are a result of the work of our student leaders. From Alternative Seasonal Breaks to VIS-A-VIS, we had a chance to sit down with YMCA student program leaders and ask them what the University YMCA means to them.
This is what Vick, Irfan, Joe, and Catherine shared with us:
Y Stories: Vicki Prince
|Click Here To Watch Vicki's Y Story|
Community service has always been a big part of Vicki’s life; developing her leadership with the Y’s VIS-A-VIS Volunteer Tutoring student program gives her insight into how community service shapes her future as a civically engaged leader. Vicki’s dream is to become ambassador to China as she continues to study Mandarin and study abroad in China.
Vicki sees the Y helping her develop her relationship-building skills and keeping her community-minded and attentive in addressing growing issues of today.
“When you’re on campus, you get so involved with campus that you forget that Champaign and Urbana are cities and not just college towns. So I think the Y has been great at getting involved in the community,” says Vicki. Vicki is also a part of initiatives that are working to create meaningful change on campus too. This past year, Vicki served as an intern with Intercultural Horizons, a global engagement initiative of the University YMCA that promotes better relationships between domestic and international students on campus.
During the Spring semester, the Intercultural Horizons interns created the Conversation Hour Program, which was open to everyone to learn about other cultures through group art projects that help encourage dialogue between domestic and international students. Vicki sees this program as a great start to break down the barriers between international and domestic students and support more inclusive relationships on campus. She looks forward to continuing this work with the Y.
With your support, more stories like Vicki's can be told. Make your gift to the Y today at: universityymca.org/support_us/
Y Stories: Irfan Ali
|Click Here To Watch Irfan's Y Story|
Irfan Ali is studying to be a doctor; and it may come to the surprise of some that practicing medicine well hinges on understanding people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. “How to interact, it sounds simple,” says Irfan, “but interaction comes with being able to be empathetic in a conversation. That’s really important, especially in my medical career where I’ll be working on a team and listening to other’s opinions.” Irfan says a lot of what he has learned about encouraging greater understanding of each other is through his leadership with Interfaith In Action, a student program of the University YMCA.
Through Irfan’s involvement with Interfaith In Action as a second-year student, Irfan started hearing more about what other YMCA organizations were doing and the common goal of social justice work that the YMCA promotes. “Promoting the understanding of equality and diversity is a really big part of the YMCA and that’s my main connection with the Y,” says Irfan.
With Interfaith In Action, promoting better understanding on campus is exactly what Irfan is working towards.
This past year, every monthly dialogue that Interfaith has hosted at the Y is about working towards a bigger goal of getting discussion started and encouraging others to think about the concept of interfaith cooperation for the advancement of social justice. Next year, as president of Interfaith In Action, Irfan is also looking forward to talking with the University of Illinois about creating a prayer or mediation space. Irfan is excited for the possibilities of public prayer space on campus to encourage inclusivity and greater understanding.
With your support, more stories like Irfan's can be told. Make your gift to the Y today at: universityymca.org/support_us
Y Stories: Joe Edwards
|Click Here To Watch Joe's Y Story|
Joe Edwards has always been a nature guy. When Joe was little, he liked to go in the woods and play outside. He still does, and he wants his daughter to be able to experience his same love of nature throughout her lifetime. “I have this creature that’s going to live in times that I’m not going to live in. I want to make sure that those times aren’t completely terrible.”
Joe’s passion for environmental activism was first sparked when he saw documentary called Coal Country, which is about how awful mountaintop removal is in West Virginia and how ingrained coal extraction is in their communities. After watching Coal Country, Joe started going with his roommate, Harry, to Beyond Coal meetings, a campaign of Students For Environmental Concerns (SECs). This year, Joe became co-president of Beyond Coal with Jackie Genova; and, under their leadership, the group experienced one of their biggest accomplishments in its 6-year campaign history: They got the Academic Senate to vote in favor of coal divestment.
This vote represents a very strong statement from the entire campus community that divesting from coal companies and investing in socially responsible companies should happen. As Joe moves forward with plans to become an ecologist, he excited to hear about next steps in having the University of Illinois commit to a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) plan. Joe is says he’s proud to be a part of the Y, for not only helping students drive lasting change, but also in being a positive space where he feels his ideas and passions are supported.
With your support, more stories like Joe's can be told. Make your gift to the Y today at universityymca.org/support_us
Y Stories: Catherine Schmid
|Click Here To Watch Catherine's Y Story|
What you might see in politics and religion out in the world today is that people are so focused on differences, dividing and putting people in harmful categories. For Catherine Schmid, the Y is all about combating that ever-pervasive problem of divisive behavior through drawing on people’s strengths in leadership development and building lasting relationships. Catherine Schmid is a third-year student at the U. of I. and has been serving this year as a trip-coordinator with Alternative Seasonal Breaks, a student program of the University YMCA.
For Catherine, being involved with Alternative Seasonal Breaks is about the process of learning about an issue, experiencing it first-hand, and taking that knowledge that you have learned on your trip and sharing that with other people. She says that’s when you grow, because you’re not just learning in the classroom - you’re experiencing.
At the Y, Catherine has learned that her leadership is not only about being responsible for the task she’s committed to completing, but that she’s responsible for the people involved as well. “Leadership isn’t about being in charge of something, but about helping people be their best self,” says Catherine.
Finding community at the Y was really important to Catherine. Having somewhere where you can go and be yourself and be with people who are passionate about what they do–that has made all the difference for Catherine this year.
With your support, more stories like Catherine's can be told. Make your gift today at universityymca.org/support_us/